Atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition characterized by dry, itchy skin, with rashes that can be red, cracked, and even ooze and bleed. Flare-ups can be prompted by environmental elements or “triggers” such as certain soaps, clothing fabrics, deodorants, carpet fibres, and dust. Overheating, excessive sweating, low humidity, certain foods, and stress can also contribute to flare-ups.
Since our skin is outwardly visible to all with whom we interact, atopic dermatitis’ severe symptoms often have deep physical, emotional, and psychosocial impacts on patients — especially on adolescents. Sleep disturbances, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and feelings of isolation are common amongst the estimated 17 percent of Canadians living with atopic dermatitis, as reported in the Canadian Skin Patient Alliance 2018 report The Skin I’m In. Patients may also avoid physical or social activity and miss work or school as a result of their diagnosis.
A life-altering condition
“Living with eczema can be difficult. You stand out in front of all your classmates,” says Maryum, a teenager who suffers from atopic dermatitis. “I was the only kid with different skin, and who had dry, itchy, inflamed skin.”
Atopic dermatitis affects people of all ages, but especially children and adolescents. “Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema, and one out of every four or five children will be diagnosed with at least one symptom of atopic dermatitis,” explains Dr. Vipul Jain, an allergist and immunologist at Niagara Region Medical.
I’m hopeful about the future because there’s been more awareness about eczema in recent years and there have been innovations and medical advancements that will hopefully help people like me live a better life.Maryum, a teenager who suffers from atopic dermatitis
To date, treatments for atopic dermatitis have included various creams and lotions, topical steroid medications, and UV therapy. These treatments have had various measures of success in keeping the condition under control. “Steroids are just a temporary kind of thing,” says Saba, Maryum’s mother. “We tried UV light therapy for four or five months. It didn’t work. And then we were introduced to some newer options, new treatments in the market — the injectables.”
Promising news for adolescents with atopic dermatitis
Fortunately for adolescents with atopic dermatitis, there’s hope. Medical advancements — like the injectables that Saba mentions — are changing the way the condition is treated and managed. It’s now being viewed as an autoimmune disease rather than as a surface issue. This allows medical professionals to treat the patient and not just the symptoms.
Finding effective treatment for adolescents suffering from the condition can be transformative to their quality of life. “When you treat a patient’s atopic dermatitis, you help them feel what normal feels like. That’s a very powerful thing,” says Dr. Jain. “It’s an exciting time to be treating atopic dermatitis because of this newer, injectable therapy that’s available. It’s associated with potentially less-serious side effects, the efficacy data is excellent, and patients do really well. Previously this treatment was only indicated in adult patients, but now it’s used to also treat adolescent patients.”
This is promising news for adolescents with atopic dermatitis. “I’m hopeful about the future because there’s been more awareness about eczema in recent years and there have been innovations and medical advancements that will hopefully help people like me live a better life,” says Maryum.
If you suffer from this condition, one of the new treatment options may be right for you. Talk to your dermatologist, allergist, paediatrician, or general physician about finding the treatment that’s a perfect fit for you.
Intense Itch. Burning. Pain.
Eczema Society of Canada under took a quality of life project to better understand the burden of living with atopic dermatitis (commonly called eczema). Survey respondents with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis identified the quality of life impacts seen to the right. The physical symptoms of atopic dermatitis have significant impacts on quality of life for those suffering from the condition.
Experience loss of sleep
Avoid physical activity
Avoid social activity
To learn more about atopic dermatitis and managing your condition, speak with your health care provider. The Eczema Society of Canada offers support and resources at EczemaHelp.ca.
All information in this infographic was obtained from a 2016/2017 quality of life report produced by the Eczema Society of Canada.
This article was made possible with support from a leading biopharmaceutical company.